So, you’ve written a book and it’s finally been published. There you are visiting the Amazon.com page of your special darling for the 58th time today just in case the rank has increased, and then you see it. A one-star review. A ONE-STAR REVIEW! How? Why? Who would do such a thing? How could someone go online and tell everyone your baby is ugly? It is the most horrible thing ever (after genocide and natural disasters and a thousand other horrible things).
I understand. I’ve been there. Here are five steps I use to cope with a bad Amazon.com review.
1) Lean on your inner circle
It is important for every writer to have an inner circle of at least 2-3 friends who you can contact when someone has been nasty to you. Preferably these people should be other writers who have also experienced attacks on their work, be it as a blogger or a published author. Email these people when something bad has happened to you and they should be able to do several things. First, they will validate your feelings and assure you that, yes, you are completely right to be upset by this and, man, that reviewer is a real asshat. Second, they will empathize with you. They might even tell you their own horror stories which could be much worse. Third, if you’re lucky, they will also have a great sense of humor which they shall use to mock and ridicule your critic, which will leave you both laughing and feeling much better about the whole thing.
It is extremely important that the members of your inner circle keep your communications private. If any of what you say comes out in public you will look like a KRAZY PERSON with a capital K who needs to grow a thicker skin. Engaging a one-star reviewer in public is a very bad, no good idea. Just ask Anne Rice.
2) Read bad reviews of awesome books
Think of the book you love more than any other book. The book you wish you’d written. The book you’ve reread over and over. Now go read the one-star reviews for that book. I assure you they exist. There is someone out there who hated that book with as much passion as you loved it. They are the people who think To Kill a Mockingbird is the “worst book of all time” and that Pride and Prejudice is “a horrible and confusing story.” That doesn’t necessarily mean all bad reviews are without basis, but it does mean that not every critic is in line with popular opinion. Just because someone trashed your book doesn’t necessarily mean it’s garbage.
3) Congratulations! People are reading your book!
Congrats! Someone has read your book who feels absolutely no need to suck up to you or spare your feelings. That means someone other than your friends or family have read it! Of course, if it was one of your friends or family who left the one-star review you’ve got bigger problems than a one-star review. Be happy that your book is out there in the world meeting new people. Yes, some of these people are jerkwads who will feel the need to trash talk your book on the Interwebs, but it is also meeting people who will love it and ask it to hang out with the other cool books on their bookshelf which is where the real party is happening.
4) Your bad reviews make your good reviews look more legitimate
Have you ever stumbled across an Amazon.com page for a book that has forty five-star reviews? Didn’t you think that was kind of fishy? It seems rather unlikely that all forty people who read this book could have loved it that much. It seems much more likely that forty of the author’s friends left glowing reviews to support the book. Whether you like it or not, when a bad review appears on your Amazon.com page it casts the other reviews as more reliable. It makes it look like people are giving their honest opinion, even if that opinion is not a five-star one.
5) Visit LeastHelpful.com
LeastHelpful.com is a collection of “Daily Dispatches from the Internet’s Worst Reviewers” and it will make you laugh. It will also make you realize tons of people have gotten much worse, stupider reviews than you. Take comfort in that.
Hopefully after following these five steps you will feel much better about that one-star review that’s marring your Amazon.com page. My sixth unofficial tip about one-star Amazon reviews is this: Don’t read your one-star reviews! Seriously, why torture yourself? There’s nothing you can do about it. Why should you care what an anonymous person with little accountability thinks about your book? It’s better to focus on all the people who do connect with your book and whose lives are a little bit better for having read it.
Here are some more amazing 1-star reviews of classic lit:
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
“This book is like an ungrateful girlfriend. You do your best to understand her and get nothing back in return.”
@Meg – Those are priceless. Thanks for the link.
Debbi Does Dinner says
Oh, you just reminded me that I am SOOOOOOO bad at leaving reviews! I think that I bought your books on Amazon ages ago and I loved it. So sorry I never gave it a review.
I was reading the amazing 1 star reviews and loved this one for The Lord of the Rings.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
“The book is not readable because of the overuse of adverbs.”
The other side of the coin: think twice before leaving one=star reviews, especially for books.
I am a voracious reader but never write reviews on amazon or goodreads; however, recently I read a book that had only 5-star reviews when it was only just OK. The fact that there were under 30 reviews should have clued me in to the fact that probably the people writing the reviews were the writer’s friends.
I was having a bad day, plus being in my mid-60s, time is very precious to me, not to mention my tiny disposable income.
Anyway…I wrote the review in a fit of anger. I am basically a nice person so imagine my chagrin when the author read my review. I felt like apologizing but did not want to be patronizing to the young writer so I did not respond.
I will never again post book reviews in anger.
Me again: just read those awful reviews of your books, especially that one for Chocolate and Vicodin, and have one more item for your list: realize that one-star reviews many times have more to do with the reviewer’s personality and meanness than with your book. I am sure you can say it better 😉
One thing we’ve noticed when perusing review for other types of merchandise is that some people don’t “get” the star system. They apparently think a 1 is better than a 5, so their rating system is backwards. While I don’t recommend you read 1-star reviews of your own work, it might be that some of those people have a backwards rating system, and are giving you a “1” when they really believe you’re a “5.”
Or perhaps this only applies to people rating electronics and other types of merchandise and people rating books actually understand that “5” is best, “1” is worst.
@MargieK – I hadn’t thought of that, but I guess people could get confused. It’s like the DEFCON system. DEFCON 5 is actually the least severe and DEFCON 1 is the most severe, but people usually get it mixed up.
The worst 1-star reviews are the ones from people complaining that their package shipped late or some other Amazon problem that the author had no control over. I don’t think I have any of those myself, but I hate seeing them on other people’s pages!
Aww, I’m sorry to hear that. At my work place, we give out satisfaction surveys. I’ve found that the majority of people who have had a good experience will not leave comments about it. The most vocal people are the people who are just unpleasant in general: “you create your own reality”. I’m glad you aren’t taking that dumb comment to heart!
Now I feel bad for giving a 1-star review for “French Women Don’t Get Fat”.
@Aline – As long as your review was fair and focused on the content of the book, it’s certainly your right to leave a 1-star review if you genuinely thought a book sucked. The only ones I think are out of line are the personal attacks, which I suppose is a danger when you write a memoir because people confuse knowing the book with knowing you. But on the other end of the spectrum there was a review years ago that someone left on “Half-Assed” that said he didn’t like it because I didn’t include diet information, which is true and a fair point of view, so I didn’t really mind that one.
@JenFul – Well, yeah, I thought her book was terrible and I ALSO thought that her book lacked diet information. I read it on the kindle and I kept on expecting that there would be a chapter on “How to”. And then it got to the point where the “How to” would start and then the book ended. However, yes, her book was not a memoir. I wouldn’t expect a “How to” in a memoir but I expected more than “Just eat less and walk more”. Her book was also terribly condescending.
Donna Abrams says
My first reaction was — “Who gave you a bad review? I will find them and beat them up!!!” Apparently, my first reaction to anything is my 10-year-old self (which explains the cookie binges, but I digress). I liked both of your books, so screw’em, I say! What do they know?????
Dagny Kight says
I admit it. I went to your book page to see if you had some recent hater venting their insecurities! Bad reviews were just on your mind for this blog post? At least all your bad reviews actually reference your book! You got their money!
I have picked up not just a hater but some woman on a campaign to convince the world I am some kind of fraud. Very bizarre. She’s never read my book and simply posts outright lies to my book page. Amazon has been removing her reviews but not the last one so I’m having to go through their legal department. You’re right, I will NOT engage with this loony bin!
But you should find this amusing! I had a client who’s convinced he’s going to be a famous author. I just got his Kindle edition live and the print edition is in proofing. Do ya think maybe those first two reviews are from friends?
I just wanted to say I am on day 2 of reading your book, Half Assed. Plan to finish tomorrow, but really start my journey on losing 70 lbs. thank you for reviving me, and motivating me to do it.
@Jeri – Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. Good luck with your weight-loss journey!